Tag Archives: coal

A Coal Port in the Storm: Tsunami Risks for Raven Mine Storage Plan


What does Port Alberni have in common with Fukushima, Japan – besides a love for fish? Two things, potentially.

First, according to experts from Emergency Management BC, Port Alberni is located in the heart of the most dangerous Tsunami zone in the country, making it prone to a catastrophe like the one we just witnessed across the Pacific. Second, if Compliance Energy gets its way, the town’s harbour will host a dirty energy facility right in the path of the big wave.

Compliance is the proponent for the Raven Underground Coal Mine, near Fanny Bay, on the opposite side of Vancouver Island. The company wishes to truck its coal from there to Port Alberni – passing through Cathedral Grove along the way – to a coal storage facility in the town’s port, before being loaded onto ships carrying the black gunk to China. This week, the first round of environmental assessment public meetings is taking place on the proposed mine and coal port. The first of these, last night in Courtenay, saw over 500 people turn out to deliver a resounding message to representatives of the Canadian and BC Environmental Assessment Offices, opposing the plan.

Unlike the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima, fatally damaged by the recent earthquake and Tsunami, Port Alberni would be home to an 80,000 tonne coal storage facility – with catastrophic economic, ecological and health consequences for the community and region the next time the big one hits.

In 1964, a massive Tsunami unleashed by an earthquake in Alaska swept over the town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, causing $10 million dollars of damage (in 1964 dollars). Historical records show it is not a question of “if” but “when” the next one will come. There will be more significant earthquakes along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and other tectonic hotspots in the Pacific Ocean – and when they occur, there is the distinct possibility of another Tsunami ploughing its way up Alberni Inlet and causing all manner of devastation.

If there is an 80,000 tonne coal container there, the consequences will be unimaginable. Alberni Inlet is home to, among other ecological treasures, one of Canada’s most prominent salmon rivers, the Somass, which has helped the town lay claim over the years to “Salmon Capital of the World” (a bone of contention with my home town of Campbell River, which used to make the same boast).

According to Coal-Free Alberni president Satcey Gaiga, “The coal would potentially be dispersed throughout 600 hectares based on how far the water would reach in our valley, according to our Provincial Emergency Program information…I can’t believe the Environmental Assessment Offices provincially and federally are even considering these preposterous plans, allowing [Compliance Energy] to continue to go through the environmental assessment process to do this: HOW DO YOU MITIGATE A TSUNAMI?”

Indeed, British Columbians must ask their provincial and federal bureaucrats and politicians, “Have we learned nothing from Fukushima and the nuclear waste continues pouring into our Pacific Ocean?”

The environmental assessment hearings resume this Thursday in Port Alberni for what promises to be a fiery round 2. Click here for a complete schedule.

The CEA Agency and the EAO accept public comments submitted by any of the following means:

  • By Email: raven@ceaa-acee.gc.ca
  • By Fax: 250-356-6448
  • By Mail:

Rachel Shaw, Project Assessment Manager
Environmental Assessment Office
PO Box 9426 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9V1


Andrew Rollo, Project Manager
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
320 – 757 West Hastings Street
Vancouver BC V6C 1A1

Click here electronic copy of the draft AIR/EIS Guidelines document and information regarding the environmental assessment process.


CoalWatch Letter Seeks Real Public Consultation on Raven Mine


CoalWatch Comox Valley Society
PO Box 157
Union Bay, BC V0R 3B0
May 17, 2011
The Honourable Terry Lake
Minister of Environment
Province of British Columbia
Parliament Buildings
PO Box 9047
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Dear Honourable Minister:
I was forwarded the written transcripts of your responses to MLA Scott Fraser’s questions yesterday in the afternoon sitting of the Legislative Assembly. Specifically regarding the current environmental assessment of the proposed Raven Underground Coal Mine Project. Since CoalWatch Comox Valley was mentioned in your response as having been consulted as part of a CEAA/EAO workshop on March 13, 2011, I would like to clarify CoalWatch’s position on the comprehensive review environmental assessment currently being conducted.
On August 17, 2010 the Environmental Law Centre at UVIC , on our behalf, sent a written request to federal Minister of Environment Jim Prentice and provincial Minister of Environment Barry Penner, to refer the environmental assessment of the proposed Raven Underground Coal Mine Project to a joint federal/provincial independent expert Review Panel for full public hearings. Written responses from both Minister Prentice and Minister Penner rejected our request.     On January 18, 2011 in a meeting with provincial Minister Murray Coell, Coalwatch reiterated our request for an independent review panel with public hearings. Those in attendance at that meeting included myself, Campbell Connor from CoalWatch, Roberta Stevenson representing the BC Shellfish Growers Association, Minister Coell and several of his staff members. A letter was sent to Minister Coell on January 19, 2010 asking for his written support for an independent review panel with public hearings. The written response from Minister Coell rejected our request and stated that he was satisfied with the comprehensive EA of the proposed Raven Project.
CoalWatch believes that an independent review panel would be more rigorous, more transparent, and be more likely to result in findings of environmental impacts. An independent review panel would also include PUBLIC HEARINGS rather public meetings which are currently scheduled under the comprehensive review. We believe that a review panel is clearly in the public interest based on compelling evidence of:
the potential significant adverse environmental effects of this project: and
the deep and widespread public concerns associated with this project.
CoalWatch, with the support of numerous local governments, community organizations, individuals, and environmental groups representing thousands of British Columbians, will continue to advocate for a more rigorous environmental assessment of the Raven Project. Any implication that by participating in workshops conducted by the CEAA/EAO, CoalWatch now endorses or supports the current comprehensive environmental assessment of the Raven Project would be at best, misleading.  CoalWatch does not support the current comprehensive review EA of the Raven Project, and will continue to call for a more rigorous and transparent environmental assessment, the citizens of Vancouver Island and British Columbia deserve nothing less.
I would be glad to meet with you and your staff to discuss the issues around the Raven Coal Mine Project. Please contact me personally if you have questions.
John Snyder
President, CoalWatch Comox Valley Society
Sent via email and hard copy
Cc to Minister Don McRae and MLA Scott Fraser

The Raven Coal Mine would be situated just 5 km from Fanny Bay Wharf - shown here (photo: John Snyder)

Raven Coal Mine Debate Open to Public – Meeting Schedule Announced


On May 10, 2011, the CEAA/EAO (federal and provincial environmental authorities) announced that the 40 day public comment period on the draft AIR/EIS Guidelines document for the proposed Raven Underground Coal Mine Project would commence on May 18, 2011 and end on June 27, 2011. Over the past 17 months, CoalWatch has been identifying and researching issues regarding the proposed Raven Coal Mine Project – located near the community of Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island – and taking part in public town hall meetings across Vancouver Island and Vancouver. The overwhelming consensus in all of these town hall meetings was widespread public concern over this proposed coal mine project, and there was ample evidence of potential adverse environmental impacts from the proposed project.

The proposed Raven Coal Mine Project would include a mine site situated just 5 km from the shoreline of Baynes Sound, home of a world famous shellfish industry. The coal mined from the 3,100 hectare underground mine, would be processed at the mine site, and then trucked by double trailer B-train trucks 80 km to Port Alberni. The proponent, Compliance Energy Corporation(CEC), plans to build a coal storage and loading facility in Port Alberni, and ship the coal product by Panamax freight ships to buyers in the Pacific Rim and Asia.

The proposed Raven Project is currently going through a “harmonized” comprehensive environmental assessment review. CoalWatch, along with numerous local governments and thousands of people across British Columbia, have asked for a more rigorous environmental assessment, a so called independent expert review panel with public hearings. This independent review panel would be at arm’s length from the government, be more transparent, and more likely to result in findings of environmental impacts.

The  potential negative environmental  impacts from this coal mine project are many. They include impacts to the aquifers in the areas impacted by the coal mine, contaminants flowing into Baynes Sound from the mine operation, transportation issues with trucking the coal to Port Alberni, and the numerous coal port issues for the residents in Port Alberni. Unfortunately, the requests for a referral of the environmental assessment to an independent review panel with public hearings, have been turned down by both federal and provincial Ministers of Environment.

Now that we’re into the next public comment phase of the environmental assessment of the Raven Coal Mine Project, what can you do to help? Inform yourself on the project. The three new documents just released are on the CoalWatch website: www.coalwatch.ca

These documents, the draft AIR document, the Working Group Tracking Table, and the Updated Project Description contain over 550 pages of new material, which would give anyone a headache trying to understand. CoalWatch will be identifying issues with the new draft AIR document and have suggestions and guides for commenting on our website in the next few days.

By far one of the most important ways in which you can help, is to attend the public meetings scheduled in Courtenay, Port Alberni and Union Bay. The format of the public meetings include a display information portion from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and then a break until 6 p.m. The most important portion of the meeting begins at 6 p.m. with presentations by the CEAA/EAO and the proponent (CEC) until 7 p.m. when the formal public question and answer session begins. So, bring your signs and questions or comments, and tell the CEAA/EAO and Compliance Energy what you think of this coal mine project.

Rafe Mair once said, “The current environmental assessment process provides for public consultation, but lacks the most important thing, a PROVISION FOR PUBLIC CONSENT.” He’s absolutely right. Vancouver Island is now faced with a proposal for a coal mine which will be situated only 5 km from a world famous shellfish industry. Compliance Energy has already identified other coal deposits in their 29,000 hectare coal tenure in the Comox Valley for future development. If the Raven Project is given approval, are the residents of the Comox Valley faced with more coal mine developments turning the Comox Valley into a Mini-Appalachia? If it can happen here in Fanny Bay, it can happen anywhere in British Columbia.

Now’s the time to SAY NO TO RAVEN COAL.

John Snyder is the president of Comox Valley CoalWatch – he lives in beautiful Fanny Bay, BC


Monday May 30, 2011 – Florence Filberg Centre, 411 Anderton Ave, Courtenay, BC

Thursday, June 2, 2011 – Port Alberni Athletic Hall, 3727 Roger St. , Port Alberni, BC

Friday, June 3, 2011 – Union Bay Community Club, 5401 South Island Highway, Union Bay, BC


Tough Energy and Environmental Questions for 2011


In looking ahead to 2011, I see a very troubled environmental scene. This is because of one thing mainly: with our governments money talks and big time money talks big time. This will reflect itself in several ways and places.

In order to understand this, I think, it must be remembered that corporations don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment. They would pollute all water, destroy wildlife, and desecrate the environment generally. Every tiny bit of environmental restraint has been and always will be imposed by government and it will be resisted and ignored by the corporate world. Many of my generation and others have been brought up to respect government authority and to assume that the world was full of “good corporate citizens.” We, in fact, marveled at the great construction taking place such as Alcan even reversing rivers and creating huge artificial lakes. We developed a public mindset that marveled, uncritically, at development.

There is no question that much of the world will need power; more and more every year. What’s interesting is the lack of an intelligent debate on the subject both at a local and global level.

We have industry and environmentalists fighting but it’s scarcely a fair fight. On the Enbridge proposal to build two pipelines from the Tar Sands to Kitimat and back, industry is out-spending the environmental community 100-1. All the magazines I read carry huge touchy feely ads from huge corporations who tell us in full page ads that they are working just as fast and as hard as environmentalists to make all their creations green.

Much of the problem has been created by an uninformed and ill-informed public which refuses to critically consider anything they’ve been brainwashed into believing or disbelieving. We in the environmental field, me very much included, have decided that certain issues cannot be discussed. These beliefs have become a hardened catechism that brooks no debate.

I have written in the past about nuclear power, for example. This is wrong, we all agree. They explode like atom bombs or melt down. If you live near them or work in them, you’ll be nuked. And there are the calamities at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

In the first case there was a disaster, and at Three Mile Island there was a dangerous near-miss. And these and other scares tell us that if you do nuclear power and don’t keep up safety programs it’s only a matter of time before you have very bad news. Nuclear plants are hugely expensive to maintain and no one has found a safe way of dealing with the waste.

Does this mean that nuclear can never be debated again? Do any of us know what research has been done in recent years? In a moment I’ll tell you why this is an important question.

On the other side we’re told that wind power is the way to go because it’s “green” and that’s good. (“Green” is now a weasel word used by polluters to gloss over their destructive policies). The fact that wind power is hugely expensive and invariably set up with taxpayers money, that it is unreliable and environmentally unsound is not dealt with, for this is the reverse of the uranium argument – nuclear is bad and wind power is good, now let’s have no more arguments. While we’re at it, the future is electric cars and that’s that! Never mind asking where the electricity is coming from and how green that source is – this matter has been decided, period!

Right behind nuclear power comes fossil fuel power. This source of power is evil, so no more discussion please.

I would advise one read the lead argument for the use of coal in this month’s Atlantic Monthly. Here is a pretty strong argument which, in a nutshell says “we’re not going to eliminate coal as a source of power for a very long time to come. Isn’t the object to lower carbon emissions, so if we have no alternative for coal we should work harder at reducing the carbon footprint of this and other fossil fuels? Are there not, coming out of China for God’s sake, new techniques which have dramatically reduced the unhappy consequence of burning coal for power?”

My point is that of a British Columbian who wants to save his province’s environment. If I fight on the mantra that fossil fuels and nuclear are bad for the environment so that their use must be eliminated, doesn’t that lead to the conclusion that hydroelectric power is the only way to go? Of course we have wind power, tidal, and solar power but until they can supply the world’s needs for power, what is left?

Do we not see that by saying that other countries must stop all nasty sources of energy we are inviting them to look to us to supply the power from our rivers?

The demand for energy must go somewhere and rudimentary economics tells us the demand will lead to and find a supply – and we’re it! That demand is going to increase so that every piece of water that moves in BC will become a potential source.

This is the great evil of the Campbell Energy Plan (based largely of private river diversion projects), which has been sold on the basis of our own needs – which is plain barnyard droppings. Not only is it going to outside consumers, it is saying “look, neighbour, don’t you worry your pretty little heads about designing your own sources of energy and don’t bother for a moment with conservation because there’s lots more where that came from!”

I will soon be accused of all the usual sins – Rafe Mair favours nuclear, fossil fuel power, etc. – but I am not. What I’m saying is that our energy policy has us financing, out of taxpayers’ pocket, large international corporations who build their plants to produce power for somewhere else.

How are we financing these corporations? This is not hyperbole at all. We buy their power at 2-3 times what we can sell it for and that is money in the bank that otherwise would have to be borrowed or used out of the company’s assets. British Columbians are, therefore, not giving away power to other jurisdictions so that they needn’t make any sacrifices themselves – we’re financing the operation!

We’re saying to American governors: don’t worry about your environment, don’t fret about how you deal with carbon emissions, don’t give more than a passing thought to conservation – BC rivers and streams are yours for the asking!

It’s one thing to be a good neighbour but don’t you think this is a bit too much!